The Next Great Idea

The word begins to circulate around the department that the boss is at a conference. The collective groan from the team is audible throughout the building. When a new team member asks the question about what everyone is so bummed about, the response from her co-worker is:

“Every time the boss goes to one of these conferences he comes back with some new program or idea that he wants us to do, in addition to our work. He never asks anyone if it’s a good idea, or if it would help us. We are made to spend all of this time and effort getting it up and going, only to have his enthusiasm for the program fade, then after four or five months he forgets about it and nobody says anything for fear that it might revive. It’s always a total waste of time and we dread what our Monday meetings will be like when he returns. Some people used to get excited, now they just hate it. We call his new programs, shiny things. He has no idea how much it drains people when they put effort into these things when they take so much time, and go nowhere.”

As a leader, it is important to be aware that new ideas and initiatives take a great deal of creative energy to implement and maintain. Being mindful of the creative capacity that the team has for “new”, in addition to their normal work is an important consideration. it is difficult to calculate the tangible loss of capacity from the team as a whole when they are repeatedly asked to invest their efforts in projects that do not reach an intended goal. Rather than being exciting or positive, unfulfilled initiatives are actually disincentives for the team.

Shiny Things vs. Working the Plan

Positive practices that bring about results with teams in the workplace are the establishment of solid working values and norms. How the team works together and the manner in which they adhere to the established values of the workplace has a great deal to do with job satisfaction.

Misalignment of established norms and values is the largest single factor cited in why team members choose to leave a job. Unfulfilled programs and initiatives, fall heavily into the latter category. Taking time to evaluate what teams are asked to do in addition to adhering closely to established norms and values, is an important leadership consideration.

Having a plan and working the plan in the context of a culture that is supportive and nurturing, is the workplace environment that most team members prefer. When considering changes or additions to the workplace culture one should first evaluate how any addition would add value to the culture.

Having a Filter for the Main Mission

In addition to values and norms for the workplace culture, a wise leader takes the time to work with their team to develop “filters” through which ideas and changes can be evaluated for their potential value. “Filters” are in essence questions that allow you and your team to objectively evaluate the potential alignment that any proposed change might bring. If for example, your company had a primary goal of superior responsiveness to your customers, any programs or additions to the team environment would need to be evaluated to see if they added value to that standard.

While it may seem to be a small thing, initiatives that tax the “creative energy” of your team must be considered from the perspective of that finite resource. Programs and initiatives that align with the main mission tend to feed the “creative energy” of your team and inspire future participation. If they are attached to recognition and rewards, so much the better. The contrast with misaligned initiatives is stark. These are certain to inhibit and act as disincentives to future investments of time and energy from team members.

As a leader, it is critical for you to consider any additions to the workplace culture in terms of alignment to the main mission, and the impact that they will have on the willingness and capacity of the team to contribute in the future.

Learn how to create the culture change your business needs to excel by downloading our FREE workbook: The Innovative Leader’s Guide To Transforming Company Culture…Starting With Yourself.